The Lollipop Loop

hale3This past weekend found us hiking the Lollipop Loop that would lead us over the summits of North and South Hancock in the New Hampshire White Mountains. The hike itself was enjoyable, the trail rambling through the woods with leaves just beginning to gain their fall colors and over shallow river crossings. This trail was much easier than the hikes of the past few weeks. Until we got to the top, that is – but that’s often the case.

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The trail is called a Lollipop Loop because it resembles a lollipop. A single path leads to a divergence – you can go left and ascend North Hancock or right to South Hancock. Whichever you choose, you can hike to the other once you reach the summit, creating a loop at the top of the trail you have to take back down. Thus the lollipop.

hale1The last .7-.5 miles, depending on the direction you chose, is a steep hike. I would suggest hiking up North Hancock, and down South. The north side had a large stretch of loose rock – I’d rather climb up a sliding trail than surf down it. There are ledges at each summit that provide nice, if limited, views.

hale5The trail is located on the hairpin curve of the Kancamagus Highway. The parking lot is a few hundred feet after the road straightens out. A sign at the far end of the lot will point you in the direction of the trail-head. Even if you don’t hike, if you’re ever in the area, you should take a cruise down this road. There are plenty of places to stop for amazing views, like the vista from this lot, shown right.

 

Defeating Mount Whiteface

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I’ve finally conquered my foe and marched across the summit of Mount Whiteface. It took plenty of planning (making it to the right Whiteface is half the battle) and lots of hard work (no one said it would be easy) but this mountain has been slayed and my vendetta settled. It only took four attempts, but who’s counting?

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whiteface10The steep climb led to some ridiculous scrambles over bald rock. Large stretches of stone with limited holds that left you dangling a few thousand feet over open air. Not the most comfortable moments I’ve spent on a mountain, but the views from the ledges were spectacular, as was the view from the false summit. The true summit of Mount Whitehead is a small stone cairn nestled in the woods.

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After conquering Mount Whiteface, we hiked over to his neighbor, Mount Passaconway. The trail between the two was long and full of PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs). After hiking halfway down over a three mile stretch, we had to gain all of our lost altitude in a one mile hike straight up. Like Whiteface, the true summit of Mount Passaconway was in the woods, but a small ledge nearby offered a nice vista.

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This was a long, arduous hike – a little more than twelve miles done in eight hours, and we were dragging our feet by the end. The journey was a struggle, but well worth the effort, and we’ve bagged two more of the White Mountain 4000 footers!

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The Forgotten – Mount Tecumseh

007We had the mountain entirely to ourselves. While we passed cars at other trail heads, our lot was empty. The White Mountain National Forest didn’t even bother to mark the trail head with a sign. As the smallest of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers, poor Mount Tecumseh is neglected and forgotten.

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There are two trails to the summit. One starts at a ski resort. The one we chose begins at an unsigned lot off of Tripoli Road. To find it, it’s on the south side of the road, between the lots for Mount Osceola and Eastman Brook, which are both on the north side of the road. It’s 5.7 miles from I-93.

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The hike begins by leading you across two shallow rivers, after which you come upon a nice, leaf strewn path with  surprisingly few rocks that leads you up at a 45 degree angle. It was a different type of trail than the other 4000 footers we’ve done. A nice change of pace, but we were sure there’d be some climbing to come later.

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At the top of this trail there’s a small cairn, an indicator of change in terrain. From here the trail changes to more of a path winding through the woods leading to the occasional scramble over rocks. Then you reach the top, which is a false summit of sorts. There’s a barely noticeable, fallen cairn marking the leveling off of this trail at the top. A path to your right leads to what is probably the best view on this mountain, and what most who take this trail believe to be the summit. To reach the actual summit, continue on the trail. It will take you through a series of dips and rises until you come to the actual summit, about a mile farther and only 250 feet higher than the false summit.

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I can understand why so few people hike Tecumseh – there’s almost no view, and Mount Osceola, which has an amazing view, is right across the street. However, it’s still a nice hike. What it lacks in view in makes up for in peace and quiet. There’s no overcrowded trails, no hikers screaming to each other, no one smoking a cigarette at the top. There’s just you, your thoughts, and nature.

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